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Ruth’s House of Hope has six pillars holding up the third story, and RJ Dwyer Inc. recently set to work repairing the deteriorating structures. The project is expected to wrap up before the snow falls. (Misty Schwab/

Ruth’s House of Hope is making a couple major changes to its structure — one that supports the building itself and the other that helps women recovering from substance use disorders.

RJ Dwyer recently began construction on the six pillars that hold up the third story of Ruth’s House, and at the same time, staff is planning to open an extension of the original shelter in Northfield called Sarah’s House.

For the past 16 years, Ruth’s House has offered a sturdy shelter to female heads of household and their children in crisis situations. The 24-hour support staff helps the women deal with the repercussions of domestic abuse, addiction or poverty, among other crises, and connects them with resources to get them back on their feet.

The actual house is much older than the organization and required crucial repairs to the pillars holding up the third floor, which contains three resident rooms and a play area for children. The third floor also includes a multi-century area, where children completed class work when schools closed in the spring.

Suzzanne Fox, executive director of Ruth’s House of Hope, said the coronavirus pandemic pushed back the start date of the project, but Dwyer expects to have the pillars repaired before the snow falls.

To fund the project, Ruth’s House staff needed to raise $40,000. The organization raised half of the target amount at its annual Hearts Gala Fundraiser in February. Local residents and businesses, who went by “Pillars of Our Community” donated $20,000 to match the funding raised at the gala.

Fox said Ruth’s House continues to plan for the 2021 Hearts Gala in February, but in a virtual format.

A new house of hope

Over the years, Ruth’s House has offered support to a number of females transitioning out of drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers. But staff recognized a need for a separate house to help these women transition back into society.

“We’ve found it’s better for women to have that space to themselves before being reunited with their children,” Fox said. “It’s difficult when you’re thrown back into society and thrown back into parenting all at once.”

To give women transitioning out of treatment an extra hand, the Ruth’s House Board and staff developed the concept of Sarah’s House, which will open later this month.

Residents will continue on the path of outpatient treatment and receive support in case management as well as resources to connect them with volunteer opportunities and other transitional programs. Fox said the location of the house is in Northfield, but to respect the privacy of residents, the full address won’t be disclosed publicly.

In the same way that Ruth’s House of Hope is named after the biblical Ruth, Sarah’s House is named after the Sarah of the Bible. In addition, Sarah’s House is named after the late Sarah Hanson Nietz, who was the pastor of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Faribault and a Ruth’s House Board member at the time of her death.

Ruth’s House staff members have been designated to serve at Sarah’s House once it opens this month. Fox anticipates residents’ stays to last an average of six months, similar to the Ruth’s House average. Up to five women may stay at the house at one time.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity and we can serve more women this way,” Fox said. “This is a time for them to rebuild their lives during in-between times. It’s definitely a need in the community for some place like this.”

Reporter Misty Schwab can be reached at 507-333-3135. Follow her on Twitter @APGmisty. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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